This all happened by chance. I happened to have my Internet connection fail (seems I got a virus), so I went to the nearby public library to use their computer and Internet connection. Sitting next to me was a nice guy who was concerned about supermarket closures. He was on a website about Supermarkets in which one article happened to mention that one chain was discontinuing the use of automated check-out machines because people prefer dealing with real live human beings. As I believe these machines to be anti-labor, and consequently a small part of the destruction of the interrelated economic web which is thus destroying our economy, I refuse to use these machines, as I also refuse to use the EZ-PASS at tolls. I was not even aware that the later was anti-labor until a toll taker enlightened me in a quick but insightful conversation while I paid my toll.
So I posted what I thought was a short, non-controversial comment to the article about my being glad these machines were being discontinued as they were anti-labor. (My comment is repeated below). Within 12 hours, I received more responses than any post, even those on my own blog and comments I made on such websites as CNN. While most of the comments were positive, some were incredibly insensitive to the plight of workers, who, already underpaid, now will face further layoffs or salary and benefit reductions as a result of automation.
I have written a choice albeit insulting response to one insensitive and also slightly insulting comment I received, which if allowed to be published by the moderator, is sure to provoke an even greater and more virulent response. But my goal is not to incite controversy, but to save jobs. So since this is my blog, here is my position and the simple short comment I wrote.
David Ginsberg Yesterday 04:14 PM
I will never ever use an automated check out. It is anti-labor. Same thing for EZ Pass. It is not like tolltakers or cashiers are paid that much, and it is not like there are an abundance of other jobs which need to be filled.
To take away jobs or reduce wages, in this economy, is unpatriotic.
While I have nothing against technology, progress. etc., there is something wrong with machines being created, used, and employed to merely replace the jobs for workers, with no replacement jobs available, especially already low paid workers who get little if any benefits. Especially when those machines don't work well (but this is an aside).
So please consider this the next time you are tempted to use an automated check-out machine at a Supermarket, if you decide to switch to EZ Pass (or want to continue using it.)
Postcript: July 9, 2011 @ 1:24 PM
It seems my comment did not get through the moderator, so I re-wrote it and restated my position in a less virulent but more detailed manner. Here is what I wrote:
as it was a passionate visceral reaction to your comments.
"Let me restate my comments in a less passionate more professional manner. First, my credentials (for calling these self-checkout machines “anti-labor” and the use of them “unpatriotic.”) I attended the University of Wharton’s School of Business and majored in economics (hardly an anti-business) organization. There, I was interested in management and labor relations, and took several courses in the field. I was interested because at the same time, I was working, to help pay for college, in what is essentially a union factory which prints and distributes the daily newspaper in Philadelphia (of course there is also an editorial side). I was a “non-union” extra. I attended law school at the University of Pennsylvania, where I continued my studies in management and labor relations, my work to pay for school, but also started doing legal work for the attorney for the union. Since graduating, I have almost exclusively represented Employers (some of whom have had labor problems) and all of whom were concerned with the bottom line and being competitive.
Second, my position. These “self-checkouts” are the quintessential definition of “anti-labor”. Unlike computers, they do nothing more than replace an existing position filled by a live human being. In fact, contrary to computers, they decrease efficiency. I used one once, and it was so problematic, I had to call the supervisor over five times. If even the weight of an item is off, it won’t register it. Computers, on the other hand, require a human to run them and greatly increase the competitiveness and efficiency of the existing workplace. Of course, to some extent, every increase in technology, including the invention of electronic calculators, creates a tension between increased productivity and decreases in the need for labor. It is a question of balance and context.
As far as “balance,” as I have tried to convince you, these machines don’t really increase efficiency, but instead simply replace paid employees with expensive machines with attendant costs. In the context of this economy, one must remember that there are a millions people who, due to no fault of their own, are unemployed and/or underemployed. Health insurance costs, gasoline costs, and other costs are skyrocketing. People are losing their homes to foreclosures in numbers which exceed the percentage which occurred in the “Great Depression.” This is not the time to increase the numbers of the unemployed.
Each action on our economy, both positive and negative, has ripple effects. Employed people pay their bills, spend money, and the places where they spend their money earn more profits themselves. Unemployed people stop spending, stop investing, and stop paying their bills. In extreme cases, they suffer foreclosures and/or need governmental assistance, which creates a greater strain on a budget deficit already near record levels.
Let’s look at in a simple manner. Would you rather see that employed grocery clerk working and paying their mortgage and paying their taxes or homeless and receiving welfare? I am sorry, but there are not enough jobs out there, even low-paying ones, and even if that grocery clerk gets a job, someone else will not get it."
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